The zen way

Minimal code for a minimal lifestyle

Photo from vinothchandar

Originalmente publicado el 3 de Marzo de 2014

Sometimes I wonder about my choices. I wonder about my look, the things I say, the reactions I trigger on people. But since a long time I do not wonder about one thing: my code choices and how they triggered a life choice.

There are some things that change the way you think. I tend to prefer simple approaches to things, specially complex problems. I don’t see right complex solutions only because the problem looks complex itself.

So this is a brief story on my journey from a complex point of view ONLY in code to a minimal view not only in code but also in my life.

Allow yourself to be inspired

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Albert Einstein

My way started some years ago after struggling with Rails and don’t finding peace with it. I was spending more time fighting with layers and layers of code that my boss promised me will make my life easier. It was not, I was angry on the lack of understanding I had. I was angry at me.

The code you write it’s nothing more than a reflection of who you are, code it’s a part of you. That’s why we need creativity, that’s why we burnout because when that reflection fades, a part of us does the same.

I was promised a world of awesomeness after I started coding with Rails. I fell in love with Ruby when I started but some time working only with Rails… well I derailed.

I felt empty, that code was not me. And that was poisonous for me. I do not have a work-life and a life in another place. This is my life… work and OSS are parts that define me so doing something annoying breaks my soul.

And then it happened. We were visited by soveran and he introduced us his latest project: Cuba at that point based on Rum, maybe you recognize the name of the author because he wrote Rack. The project later evolved to a standalone lib that didn’t use Rum at all.

Long story short I viewed a world beyond the cluttered Rails philosophy. And I saw that another lifestyle was possible, that my demands of a simpler work-style could be achievable.

I was still struggling with Rails in my work. I couldn’t understand why someone could see this as “fast development”

class ETooMuchMagic < ApplicationController
  def index

Against something like Sinatra that was the first thing I saw as simple. Don’t get me wrong, Sinatra is really pretty… but still… there’s magic there. And I’m a person of science.

get "/magic" do
  erb :index

That’s why I started to use Cuba all the time, in every scenario just for the love of it.

on "magic" do
  res.write "Roll your own"

Obviously the place I worked wasn’t really happy about that choice and I only were “allowed” to use Cuba once in a client project.

And then I got the point of so much minimalism… I started seeing beyond the code itself.

There were something else, I’ve started trying to understandd it… every piece of code. The concept of Middlewares started to appear, pattern matching, caching, HTTP codes, headers… lot of stuff that was hidden in the magic for my “protection”.

Cuba.use Cuba::Render
Cuba.use Middleware::Of::Your::Choice

Cuba.define do
  on root do
    res.write view("home")

I was forced to learn… to understand, and that’s the difference. I was really understanding every part of the app. When things go wrong I could easily identify it and fix it… I was extremelly happy knowing that the app was truly a part of me.

Build your own tools

Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.

Frederic Chopin

When you start to understand how things work you fall in love of simplicity. Not as a hacky way on doing stuff but as a form of art.

The first gem I wrote was Ohm find_by just because I wanted to have some of the stuff made Rails easy while using Ohm.

And then it happened. I needed something. But every thing I found had a lot of code impossible to read or understand. I needed a testing framework for the browser… just a simple assert. But I couldn’t find nothing. That’s how Gerbil was born

scenario("This is my scenario", {
  "setup":  function()  { /* When scenario starts */ },
  "before": function()  { /* Before every test */ },
  "after":  function()  { /* After every test */ },
  "cleanup": function() { /* When the scenario ends */ },

  "MagicThing should have a length": function(g) {
    g.assertEqual(this.someThing.length, 1);

  "MagicThing should be valid": function(g) {

And it worked… it is crappy code but it worked. Simple, straightforward and readable since it’s only one file.

That was all that I needed to test Lodis another project just for fun.

And then the snowball effect… I couldn’t stop. Open source became part of me. A really important part. The things I learned from all the incredible people out there is just amazing.

The same inspiration “forced” me to try to share my thoughts. My ideas. And with minimalism in mind I gave this talk:

You won’t be alone

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Antoine de Saint-Exupe

I was surprised with this new world, minimal code and joyful solutions. But what really surprised me was the world I joined.

A lot of brilliant people are out there ready to show you their ways. You can be blown away with people like cyx and his amazing dep, or inkel and his plain simple daemon lib Fallen, or laugh with the brilliance of gst from the huggable tonchis, or choose gn the simple generator from lucasefe or even see your closest friend release outstanding projects like pote Go dependency manager gpm.

But nothing prepares you to meet great people in person. You could read every piece of code, understand every method but you can find a special light when you hug them, share a beer, a gist, an informal talk.

You are not alone, there’s another way to see the world. A way that probably it’s not going to give the top notch job of your Rails shop… but it’s going to give you an amount of knowledge that can help you overcome every rock in the way.

Apply it to your life

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

William Morris

Sometimes in life you had to make choices. Choices that go in the opposite direction that your brain tells you.

One year ago I had a ticket for Eurucamp, a ticket that was around 70EUR if I recall correctly. And I give it away… I really needed the money but I couldn’t use it.

But I had an opportunity, the opportunity to invest my money in hope. Hope in someone I didn’t know. Hope that having less is going to give me more in the future.

I tweeted to @eurucamp telling them that I had a ticket to give away for a good reason. Few moments after that @sheley answered me telling me that she wanted to switch careers and wanted to go to Eurucamp.

I gave her the ticket with some minor conditions, that happened one year ago. A Few weeks ago she told me that she now have her first job as a developer. I’m extremely proud of her and I’m eager to know what’s next.

She wrote her journey in her blog

UPDATE: Currently I see the blog down, but you can see a cached version

I started applying that minimalism to my life and my work habits.

I don’t have services on login, I have this in my .zshrc and this tool:

load_services() {
  if [ -f ".services" ]; then start_services; fi;

chpwd() {

In this journey you find stuff… stuff that changes you. You inspire and get inspired by people but also by the things around you.

In this attempt to become a minimalist, in code and life I found something else. I found the inspiration and the transpiration to break my limits, my rules.

When you find a way you want to share it as well and that’s what I’ve been doing in my talks but one talk is different one talk is the echo of my thoughts it had my rage and my love.

My talk in Ruby Conf Argentina it’s a sum of my beliefs.

For every action there’s a reaction. The great people who inspired me gave me the tools to became who am I. And that’s why I know this talk it’s just the echo of great people. The ones who fought clutter, noise and oppression.

Everyone needs a war and an ideal to stand upon. And thanks to my friends I found mine.

Live and let die

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.


This is my way, the path I’ve chosen. Most of the things you read here will only apply to me but maybe and just maybe can inspire you to do something else.

I’d love to be able to inspire someone as others inspire me.

I can’t see my life without code, I can’t see my code without minimalism therefore I can’t see my life without minimalism. It’s one thing, and a thing that pushes me forward.

Losing can be hard and unnatural. Getting rid of layers and layers in life can become a struggle since we are raised in a world were you are measured based on what you have.

It’s your life and your code, you have the power to choose your way and share it if you want but remember , it’s your way, your life and at the end the race it’s only against yourself.